I want to like bubble tea, I really do. I want to like its seemingly endless combinations, and colors, and cute kawaii characters (by the way, did you know kawaii means “cute” in Japanese? I learned that nugget from Hello Kitty). After trying some different kinds of bubble tea, I thoroughly convinced myself that I would have to love it if I just figured out the perfect bubble tea combination. Everyone else seemed to!
The “bubbles” or boba have only been around since the 1980s when some (still disputed) person added tapioca pearls to their favorite drink and introduced it to Taiwan. In other words, it hasn’t been around that long.
My First Attempt
The perfect combination, or so I thought. Black tea and almond milk, with “chocolate bubbles” from Miu’s Tea. My thought process was that I’d be able to trick my mouth into accepting the texture of the bubbles if they’re chocolate. I’d tried the tapioca and jelly balls from my husband and daughter’s orders, and the texture just didn’t work for me.
The chocolate trick worked. I didn’t have a texture issue with this whimsical concoction, and I did drink the whole cup. Inside, I was doing a little happy dance when all of a sudden all the blood rushed from my face to my feet. My stomach did a backflip and my eyes went blurry. “Can’t drive,” I mimed to my husband. He gave me the international partner nod for “you don’t look so good, but I’m not going to say it because you may still have the strength to swing your purse at me”.
What went wrong? My theory is that I pounded a highly caffeinated drink on an empty stomach and my body wasn’t having it. But, I refuse to let bubble tea defeat me.
An Epic Quest For Boba Tea
By week three of my epic quest to enjoy bubble tea, I’d tried two different locations and three possible combinations.
I started by crowdsourcing recommendations on Facebook. It seemed that half the crowd was partial to Sushi Maki and the other half, Lan’s Pan Asian. Loving a theme, I planned for an Asian-themed “girl’s night” with my daughter. We’d go to Sushi Maki order bubble teas, and vegetarian sushi, then, go home and watch an anime movie (Okko’s Inn, if you’re curious).
We arrived at Sushi Maki just after school let out. I felt immediately out of my depth on the whole ‘ordering bubble tea’ thing. It seemed you could choose your kind of tea and then what kind of bubble. I settled on a green tea with “regular bubbles,” and my daughter chose passion fruit and “regular bubbles.” I then Googled, “What are the bubbles in bubble tea?” and quickly discovered it was tapioca.
As soon as the drinks came, I realized my mistake. The green tea appeared to have milk and I’m lactose intolerant. On my second attempt at ordering, I chose the same as my daughter after tasting hers. When I finished the contents of the plastic cup, I decided that was progress!
The Perfect Combination
Lan’s Pan Asian has all of the information about bubble tea on the walls that line its bubble tea window. For instance, “What are the toppings?” Apparently, there are tapioca balls and fruit-flavored jellies made from coconut. Lan’s also lists all the available teas and dairy and non-dairy options, which is very helpful to a lactose-intolerant-bubble-tea-newbie like me.
The order went like this: 2 jasmine teas with mango boba (bubbles). The kind woman on the other side of the glass said something into the scratchy microphone that I didn’t understand. I responded “yes,” so not exactly the perfect way to order.
We skipped on into Michael’s for craft supplies holding what I believed was the bubble tea that would finally endear me to the fad forevermore. The jasmine tea was really good, and the boba made it kind of fun to drink.
Bubble Tea in Miami
In celebration of National Bubble Tea Day, here’s a list of places to try bubble tea in Miami: